The following is a guest post by Cherryl Pereira, Head of Content at Chisel Labs
Dungeons and Dragons is a pen and paper roleplaying game that has been around for over 40 years.
It can be used as an excellent tool for developing personas (a fictional character created to represent the user of a product or service).
In this article, we will discuss how Dungeons and Dragons can be used as an excellent persona development resource alongside other methods, such as interviews and surveys.
What are User Personas?
What Are Dungeons and Dragons?
What Are the Steps for Employing Dungeons and Dragons for Developing User Personas?
What are User Personas?
User Personas are archetypal representations of customers. User personas are a tool for marketers and product managers.
They are presented in a way that is easily digestible and understandable. They are used to help inform design, copywriting, marketing campaigns, product development, and more.
User personas are fictitious personas that represent a company’s key client group.
User personas are presented as though the person is genuine, yet they also represent common characteristics among a group of individuals.
They are created through user interviews and research of the target audience.
They provide developers with insights into real people’s behavior during use scenarios based around products/services.
A brief description of a persona is typically included in the documentation for each project to help guide design decisions throughout the development process.
What are Dungeons and Dragons?
Dungeons and Dragons is an extremely popular role-playing game that was created by Gary Gygax in 1974, with Dave Arneson being credited as co-creator.
It has since been published by Tactical Studies Rules. The game can also be played over the phone or the internet using email or instant messenger formats.
Additionally, there is a version for Xbox 360 known as “D&D: Tactics”. There have been several novels and comic books written featuring characters from D&D campaigns.
In 2008 it was named amongst others to ‘Time’ magazine’s top 100 fiction books list; at number 62 coincidentally (just behind Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’).
A player in most cases takes on the persona of their character that they have created for themselves or chosen from an available set (for example), which they then pretend to be throughout gameplay.
These games can also take place online where players interact with each other within a virtual environment either directly or indirectly via the internet.
The character of the player is then represented online by what is called a ‘virtual self’ or an avatar.
What are the steps for employing Dungeons and Dragons for developing user personas?
Step One: Come up with an interesting Persona based on your target audience.
Step Two: Create a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet for the Persona.
Step Three: Pick an archetype that represents the type of persona you are creating, for example, if it is “The Leader” then choose some words or phrases that represent this role.
Step Four: Characters & Backstories -What does your character look like? What motivates them? How do they react to adversity and stress? Do they have any quirks or habits? Are there specific people who support their goals, hold them back, or help define who they are as personas? A good way to think about characters is by answering questions such as these! While not all games require story arcs for each player’s team member, many do.
A good place to start with characters is by asking what “class” they are in your party. After you have figured out the character’s role, it is time to develop their backstory.
It can be fun for all players at the table to come up with a detailed history of how each member arrived at this point in your campaign, but one person needs to take on the mantle of storyteller and create an interesting tale that ties into whatever adventure lies ahead.
Pick an archetype that represents the type of persona are creating, for example, if you are making a business persona, consider the Accountant archetype.
Now it’s time to start drawing story arcs for your personas! The first step is to write down all of their details onto an index card or piece of paper that you can keep next to you while playing.
You will need to do this once per player in addition to coming up with one arc that ties everything together. If your party includes more than four players, create multiple cards for each character since they won’t be able to participate equally during every session.
Tip: Using Dungeons and Dragons as inspiration for creating user personas has shown great results in numerous studies conducted by Digital marketer companies around the world. Use our guide above today on how best to implement DnD in your own persona development process.
In the next step, you will have to choose an arc that ties the entire story together. This is a bigger undertaking than it sounds because dungeons and dragons take place over multiple sessions, each of which has its own goals.
For our purposes today we’ll focus on only one session as an example of how best to develop personas using Dungeons and Dragons as inspiration.
There are four players in your group but unfortunately, not everyone gets equal time during every session so create three cards, one per player. In this case, assume there’s no dungeon master.
Each player can make up part of the backstory or history between characters if they want but be sure to keep it light since people tend to get attached to these stories once created.
As far as what goes on during the session, each person has a turn to talk about their character. In other words, take turns talking about your characters and stick to the facts- what you can see or know from role-playing with others is fine but keep it simple. Now is not the time for creative freedom.
When someone speaks up in-game they’ll also choose an action based on how they want to play out that scene so think of three actions too (I suggest drawing these out if possible).
After everyone’s had enough time creating backgrounds and figuring out who does what during sessions then start taking notes per player keeping track of every move made by all participants involved.
Again this will require some creativity since there are no numbers here just descriptions of everything happening in detail per character/player.
After everyone’s done with this, go back and read through their actions to determine who the players/characters are at a base level without input from others.
Once that’s determined then each player/character should be given a number based on what they did during the session.
The person with the highest action is usually going to get a “one” because of their actions being more powerful, descriptive, and impactful compared to others at this point in time.
After finishing assigning numbers for everyone involved go back through the notes from earlier making sure everything is recorded accurately per character/player without letting other players know you’re doing so until it’s finished being done which brings us into our next step: rewriting detailed descriptions of every character created including all associated information but referencing only one or two moments when necessary avoiding revealing who gets what number by using words like “this guy”, and so on
This will require creating some new memories or changing existing ones but it’s necessary to keep all players engaged in the game.
The final step is to take all of this information and use it as a foundation for creating your business user personas. This will require some research on your end but once you have those outlined, they’ll be a valuable tool in determining future product development efforts.
In conclusion, the Dungeons and Dragons game is a great way to get a group of people together and have them create user personas. It’s an easy, enjoyable process that is sure to benefit your business in the future.
Cherryl Pereira is the Head of Content at Chisel. Chisel Labs is a premiere agile product management software company that brings together roadmapping, team alignment, and customer connection.